Karen J. Alter Professor of Political Science and Law, Director of Honors

Research Interest(s):  Multilateralism; International Law; International Courts; Politics of Human Rights, Law and Politics

Program Area(s):  International Relations; Comparative Politics; Law and Politics

Regional Specialization(s):  Latin America; Africa; Europe

Department Strength(s):  Law and Politics; International Organizations and International Law; International Theory; Comparative Historical Analysis

Karen Alter's research investigates the judicialization of international relations, focusing on Europe, Africa, Latin America and economic, human rights and mass atrocities and environmental issues.  Fluent in French, Italian and German, she has authored four books, co-edited the Oxford Handbook on International Adjudication, and published over forty articles and book chapters. Winner of the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, Professor Alter is member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the editorial boards of International Organization and Law and Social Inquiry. Alter is a Permanent Visiting Professor at the iCourts Center of Excellence, at the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, and the chair of the advisory board of Pluricourts at the University of Oslo.

Books  Book Cover: The New Terrain of International Law by Karen Alter

Select Publications

  • “A New International Human Rights Court for West Africa: The Court of Justice for the Economic Community of West African States.” With Laurence Helfer and Jacqueline McAllister. American Journal of International Law. 107 (4): 737-779. 2013.
  • “The Global Spread of European Style International Courts.” West European Politics 35 (1): 135-154. 2012.
  • “Nature or Nurture: Judicial Lawmaking in the European Court of Justice and the Andean Tribunal of Justice.” With Laurence Helfer. International Organization 64 (4) 563-92. 2010.
  • “Islands of Effective International Adjudication: Constructing an Intellectual Property Rule of Law in the Andean Community.” With Laurence Helfer and Maria Florencia Guerzovich. American Journal of International Law 103 (1) 2009: 1-43. 
  • “The Politics of International Regime Complexity.” With Sophie Meunier Perspective on Politics 7 (1) 13-24. 2009.

Courses taught

Undergraduate level

  • PS 101: The International Politics of Human Rights
  • PS 343: The Politics of International Law
  • PS 347: Ethics and International Affairs
  • PS 395: International Organizations and National Policy
  • PS 398: Honors Thesis Seminar

Graduate level

  • PS 440: International Relations Theory
  • PS 442: International Organization
  • PS 443: International  Law and International Politics

Law School

  • International Courts and Tribunals


  • American Academy Berlin Prize, 2012.
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, awarded in the field of law, 2011.
  • Honorable Mention (2010), Best Contribution to the European Journal of International Relations, 2007-2009. “Agent or Trustee: International Courts in their Political Context.” European  Journal of International Relations 14 (1) 33-63. 2008.